Update from the Association’s PSHCP pensioner representative

October 12, 2023
Federal Retirees president Roy Goodall.
In his PSHCP update to members, Federal Retirees’ president, Roy Goodall, shares what the Association is doing to support its community and seek solutions.

If you have questions about your Public Service Health Care Plan, including questions about your coverage or current claims, please be patient and persistent, and continue to contact Canada Life at 1-855-415-4414 (toll-free), Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. your local time. International members may call 1-431-489-4064 (collect).

It’s been a tough couple of months for many. The transition to Canada Life from Sun Life as the provider for the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) has not been seamless.

When the partners met to formally sign a renewal agreement in early August of last year, there was hope and confidence that a better plan was coming. More than a year later, it’s disappointing to see the significant problems that have occurred for some of you with respect to the implementation of the new agreement. Chief among those has been the rocky transition to our new provider. While we appreciate that the transition is a significant undertaking, the service to our members has not met our expectations.

Some members have experienced problems from the start — from enrolling in the new plan to filling prescriptions and filing claims. All have resulted in delays, stress, heartbreaking situations and, often, consequences for health.

At Federal Retirees, we take these problems seriously and continue to advocate for improved service on the part of Canada Life. We also urge our members to exercise patience, respect and kindness when dealing with Canada Life agents. Canada Life, to be fair, has taken steps to mitigate the problems experienced by members by adding more staff to its call centre, but I realize wait times can still be lengthy. 

When we have met with officials involved in the transition — including representatives of the Treasury Board and from Canada Life — we’ve taken a collaborative but pragmatic approach by offering solutions to these problems, including urging Canada Life to hire even more staff to deal with claims-processing issues and to also hire bilingual service agents, of which there are currently too few. We have also continued to press them to establish a legacy clause for plan members who have significant medical requirements for physiotherapy.

The Association has sought solutions since the beginning of the transition. In early July, Anthony and his staff met with the Treasury Board minister’s staff and, as the pensioners’ representative, I had an in-person meeting with the PSHCP Partners Committee in early August. Our goal again was to seek solutions. We continue to be positive in our communications with these partners, but we are also holding them to account on behalf of our members.

You should know that CEO Anthony Pizzino and I met with Treasury Board President Anita Anand in early October, and we encourage you to read our article about this promising meeting.

As members of this Association, most of you will know this, but it bears repeating: Federal Retirees wasn’t involved in the decision to change providers. And it’s also worth mentioning that in the months leading up to the plan’s transition, the Association was unwavering in its commitment to represent pensioners’ interests and to communicate with members on how best to achieve the promised seamless transition. That included offers to support the transition with joint communications, provide feedback and identify issues from the pensioner perspective. Unfortunately, much of that feedback was ignored and our instructions to members weren’t enough because even when you followed them, you were let down by the system’s flaws.

I know that some of you have reached out to the Association for assistance. Our small and mighty staff have been working flat-out to answer your calls and emails, and the backlog of messages is immense. To improve our service to you, our members, Federal Retirees has taken the extraordinary step of hiring two additional employees to triage your most urgent cases and to ensure all members who reached out to us receive a response. Your patience as we endeavour to support you is appreciated.

We are doing our best to work with the PSHCP Administration Authority and Treasury Board to answer your urgent questions, but, as mentioned, members must continue to try to reach Canada Life, which is the primary organization that can help you resolve any concerns you are having regarding claims or information about your plan. Please be patient and persistent in continuing to contact Canada Life at 1-855-415-4414 (toll-free), Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. your local time. International members may call 1-431-489-4064 (collect).

It should be noted that members who have trouble getting prescriptions covered should triple-check that your pharmacy has your new plan number identification, which is based on your birthdate. Your certificate number remains the same as it was with Sun Life. 

Members, we thank you for your patience with this transition. We understand it has been stressful for you and your loved ones. Rest assured, we are keeping a detailed record of this experience to share areas for improvement when the Public Service Dental Plan moves to Canada Life in July 2024. The last thing we want is a repeat of what happened in the notorious summer and autumn of 2023.

Thanks for your patience and your commitment to Federal Retirees. We are working hard on your behalf.

Roy Goodall is the Association president and pensioner representative to the Public Service Health Care Plan Partners Committee.